As a child, I took great delight in my grandfather’s garden. Though it was just a small, backyard patch of land, my grandfather transformed it into a magical place with an abundance of vegetables and fruits. He planted rows and rows of lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, a variety of squash and beans, tomatoes, and tall stalks of corn. Grandpa also had an apple and a peach tree on which he’d graft branches of other fruit trees to expand his crop of fruits. Our family would enjoy this bounty all year round. Grandpa would make squash blossoms in the spring, set bowls of strawberries or cut generous slices of watermelon in the summer, we’d carved homegrown pumpkins in the fall, and savor his cinnamon-laced canned peaches in the winter.
No matter what the time of year, I loved wandering through grandpa’s garden. I’d help him weed, concoct natural fertilizers from eggshells and coffee grinds, and set seedlings into the moist earth. There was always something to keep my sister and me busy. We would rake leaves, pick ripe fruit and vegetables, and gather up fallen tomatoes, setting them on a sunny sill to ripen. My grandfather would bring these garden treasures into his kitchen, creating delicious, savory and sweet treats. Those smells and tastes remain in my memory. My grandfather taught me that no matter how small the space, anyone could make the world beautiful. All it takes is a little imagination and a lot of perseverance.
Grandpa’s garden stands green before me:
Apple trees bloom pink-white,
Corn ripens on silky stalks,
Feathery carrot tops sway,
Watermelon vines wander aimlessly.
Grandpa and I walk among
Golden squash blooms,
Small green pears slowly ripening,
Pumpkin vines crawling along the ground,
String beans climbing lazily towards the sun,
Grandpa’ hands, brown and weathered,
Encourage tender shoots,
Smiling, he stands before me,
A perfect, sun-speckled peach,
A garden offering, in his hands.
No one quarrels
As the squash blossoms
Are quickly plucked
From slowly, spreading vines
In grandpa’s garden.
Under huge, green leaves
Grandpa’s rough hands,
Quietly gather the buds –
Tender green, yellow,
Wise fingers dip
Blossoms in the batter.
Quivering as they sizzle,
A wonder to the tongue,
A springtime kiss.
Those memories always bring me comfort. Though my grandfather died almost forty years ago, his garden remains with me and continues to give me sustenance. For that, I am ever grateful. One magic recipe I made with my grandfather was squash blossoms. They are a rare delight and well worth the effort.
Garden Recipe: Squash Blossoms 12-16 blossoms
You can pick squash blossoms from your pumpkin or zucchini plants. Remember not to pick too many blossoms; otherwise you will have no pumpkins or zucchinis at harvest time. If you don’t have a garden, you can get squash blossoms at your local produce stand, grocery store, or gourmet specialty store in the spring.
Flour mixture: Milk mixture:
1 cup cornmeal 1 cup skim milk
½ cup flour 1 egg
1 tsp. baking powder 1 egg white
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp baking soda
Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce:
½ tsp. Dill ½ cup apricot preserves
½ tsp. Chives 1 Tbsp. water
Canola oil for frying 2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. yellow mustard
- In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, dill, and chopped dry chives.
- In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg and egg white. Mix well.
- Dip blossoms one at a time in milk mixture and then roll in flour mixture.
- Place floured blossoms on a plate and place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
- Pour an inch of oil in a frying pan. Heat oil to bubbling. Place blossom in oil 3 or 4 at a time, turning until each side is light golden brown. Remove blossoms from pan and set over paper towels.
- Serve immediately with honey-mustard dipping sauce.
Making the Dipping Sauce: (Keeps for 2 days refrigerated)
Place all the ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.